News From Terre Haute, Indiana

Local & Bistate

October 13, 2012

VIDEO: Shakin’ Things Up

Work under way in search for oil on ISU property

TERRE HAUTE — Trucks rumbling through the city streets have university officials hoping for good vibrations this weekend.

Work commenced Friday as contractors search for oil believed to be on property owned by Indiana State University. Contractors from Bay Geophysical Inc., of Traverse City, Mich., patrolled the area around 13th and Poplar streets, using vibrators to sense for oil underground on behalf of Pioneer Oil, an Illinois company.

Jim Mattison, crew manager for the Bay Geophysical team, said workers will be in town the next seven to 10 days.

“We do it pretty much every day of the year,” he said, noting the company has worked in Terre Haute before on behalf of the Hulman oil pool off Indiana 42. Other projects have taken them to downtown Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

The company uses a vehicle known as a “shaker truck,” which resembles a log chipper as part of the process. With a large pad attached to its bottom, an “articulating unit” shakes the earth, generating frequencies downward which bounce back up and form data points. The vehicle moves about 55 feet every two minutes.

“So essentially we make an underground map of the area,” he said, describing the end product as a two-dimensional map stretching over 11⁄4 miles.

While the unit is capable of measuring up to 15,000 feet below the ground, this project will most likely focus on the 3,000 to 5,000 depth level.

“A lot of it depends on how much energy you’re willing to put into it,” he said.

The vibrations aren’t harmful to things on the surface, he said, remarking that in 31 years with the company he’s never seen any damage done.

ISU spokesman Dave Taylor, standing at the site Friday, likened the machine’s vibrations to those of “an old washing machine on spin cycle.”

The sensors used are very sensitive, and Mattison said rain and excessive traffic can interfere with their readings.

On Aug. 2, ISU received permission from the Terre Haute Board of Zoning Appeals to explore for oil and gas on university property. Potential drilling would be centered on a former industrial manufacturing site near 10th and Chestnut streets and drilling would be done in a horizontal manner with pumps placed underground, officials have stated. Pioneer Oil currently holds a lease on the property and will conduct the exploration and potential drilling.

Mattison said data received this weekend will be sent back for review, and it’s unknown when any determinations will be made.

“We collect the data. That’s all we do,” he said.

Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or

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